These are special pie places:
Blue Springs Cafe — Highland, Illinois: I discovered the Blue Springs Cafe when I saw a small sign that advertised “Mile High Pie.” I had to go. I walked in and saw a dozen pies that appeared to be 12-inches high or higher! Absolutely the most impressive pie display that we saw on the trip. And the staff was great. I met them all, and we had a grand time. They cut thin slices of six different pies for me to taste. They were all good.
Betty’s Pies — Two Harbors, Minnesota: We heard about Betty’s Pies from as far away as the Grand Canyon and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Betty’s probably sells more pies each day than there are residents in Two Harbors. It’s an amazing success story.
Pie-O-Neer Cafe — Pie-Town, New Mexico: I drove 600 miles to eat pie in the town named Pie-Town. (See the story below.)
Twede’s Restaurant — North Bend, Washington: Twede’s is the restaurant that was the Double R Cafe in the TV series “Twin Peaks.” The Cherry Pie is the best-known pie in the country as it was mentioned virtually every week during the run of the program.
Mystic Pizza — Mystic, Connecticut: Pizza pie rather than dessert pie, but it was a treat to eat pizza in the restaurant “that made the movie famous.”
North Dakota State Fair — Minot, North Dakota: The Lutheran Women make great pie. We were disappointed there wasn’t a Pie Contest of some type. Bozzie Jane and I figure we would make excellent judges at state fairs across America.
Harry and the Natives — Hobe Sound, Florida: Wacky atmosphere. We were just driving down the A1A (the highway that runs north/south along the Atlantic Ocean for much of the way through the state) near Jensen Beach, Florida the morning of Day 5. We weren’t expecting to see much for a while as our list of attractions was rather short until we got further south, so we were just scanning the roadway (mainly looking for speed limit signs, I’m afraid — after the speeding ticket on Day 3) when I saw a giant robot – probably 40-feet tall. I made one of my now-patented U-turns, and we found ourselves in the wacky parking lot of “Harry and the Natives” in Hobe Sound, Florida. We weren’t sure what it was at first, but we saw a lot of people coming in and out, and we soon realized it was a bar/restaurant. The “yard” was filled with an assortment of wacky things, and the front of the restaurant had funny signs and odd décor. The interior was even better – hats stapled to the ceiling, lots of funny signs, and an incredible assortment of eclectic stuff. The rest rooms really are outside in “out” houses. Boz ordered eggs and orange juice, but I felt Key Lime Pie and a Coke was the appropriate breakfast for Harry’s. What a great place!
Ben & Jerry’s Factory — Waterbury, Vermont: While not exactly “pie,” we expanded the pie category to include just about any dessert. We love Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and it was a treat to see the factory, take the tour, and enjoy some really fresh Cherry Garcia Ice Cream. And there really is a Flavor Graveyard.
Dot’s Diner — Bisbee, Arizona: Beautifully-restored 1957 Valentine diner in a trailer park where you can rent wonderful old travel trailers. Like stepping back in time.
In addition to the above, we had pie at several orchards, at a cider mill, in several pie factories, from several street vendors, at a lube stop, in diners – cafes – and restaurants, at a theatre, in a winery, and brought to us by friends along the way.
The Great Pie Adventure
Day 20 was to be a big day. I planned to detour several hundred miles out of the original path for the trip in order to see one and only one thing: Pie-Town, New Mexico. The place got its name from a lady who baked pies for the ranchers in those parts. It has grown over the years from one lady to where it now has a population of 60. I learned of it several years ago when someone gave me an article about great pie, and the Pie-O-Neer Café in Pie-Town, New Mexico was featured. A “Pie Trip” could not possibly be valid without a visit to Pie-Town, so I carefully charted the course. It’s literally as remote a location as is Big Bend – nothing of any consequence for 100 miles or more. So, another adventure began as I left the UFO’s of Roswell behind in anticipation of great pie – multiple pieces of delicious pie!
I saw some surprisingly interesting towns en route. Lincoln, New Mexico is a neat little mountain town. Lots of history. Buildings are restored or are being restored. Just after noon, I got my first glimpse of snowcapped El Capitan Mountain. 10 minutes later, I was in the cute little town of Capitan. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Capitan is the home of Smokey the Bear, and he is buried there. I stopped at the Smokey the Bear Museum.
Since I left Del Rio way down in South Texas, I had essentially been without cell phone service. New Mexico was no better, except in Roswell.
Most states had sent me a map, but New Mexico did not get one to me before I left, so the map I got from Cody and Erica (at a gas station the night before) was very much needed. According to the map, I was to be passing near part of the White Sands Missile Range. That’s neat. So when the sign said it was just five miles off the highway, the car just headed there automatically. I had to see it. All of a sudden I realized where I was! The Trinity Site – the site where the first Atomic Bomb was tested on July 16, 1945. This was a serious deal. I couldn’t get in to take photos, but I had fun trying.
On the road again, my next stop was Magdalena. Never heard of it, but it is a nice little spot that is undoubtedly a small artist’s community. Probably just a few hundred people there. I met two nice boys, Daniel and Chris. They were excited to have their picture taken, and then they got into the spirit of the trip and kept coming up with ideas of spots in Magdalena that I should photograph. They followed me on bike. I saw an Easter Egg Hunt in a park area with some great sculptures apparently done by a local artist. I liked Magdalena.
I kept checking the map as Pie-Town didn’t appear to be getting much closer. Then I realized there was a huge error on my Excel spreadsheet itinerary. The number 100 was in the mileage column, but it was more like 300. I just kept driving and driving and driving.
Pretty scenery, but you know how it is when you are mentally programmed for one thing and your system gets thrown off. The next thing on my handy Cody and Erica map was the “National Radio Astronomy Observatory.” I stopped to take a quick photo from a distance. As I looked back at it in the rearview mirror, I realized what I had just passed. THAT was The Array! The site of the Jodie Foster movie, “Contact.” Excellent movie! Had I realized and known they have a video presentation, I would have driven over.
UFO’s, White Sands, and The Array. This is adventure at its best!
A few miles down the road, I realized I had been in a big adventure for some time. I had been looking for gas, but the little towns either had no gas stations, or they were closed. When I hit Datil, a town printed in slightly larger, bolder letters on the map, I began to panic when the only gas station there was closed. The last open gas station I recalled seeing was the Shell I visited 172 miles back in Capitan. I figured I was good for about 70 miles max. I pulled out the Cody and Erica map again to see if there was any town that had larger, bolder type anywhere near Datil. There were no options. The best bet looked like it was in ARIZONA – a ways past Pie-Town! I knew I couldn’t make it that far. I began to panic. All I had wanted to do was eat some pie.
There were very few cars on the road. No wonder. There ain’t no gas.
I decided the only thing to do was keep going toward Pie-Town. I passed the Continental Divide the first time at 5:05 pm and pulled into Pie-Town two minutes later. That annoying “you are out of gas, buddy” light was shining for the last I don’t know how many miles.
Pie-Town is really tiny, so I had no trouble finding the Pie-O-Neer Cafe. Despite the gas situation, I was so excited to see it. I took a few photos. Then I went up the steps, and I saw it. “CLOSED.” No way I have driven 300 miles or so to eat pie and have Pie-Town’s pie cafe closed. Devastated was not the right D word.
I knocked on the door. A nice lady came. They had just closed at 5. I told her I had driven 5,500 miles to eat pie there, and I gave her my card and pulled the photocopy of the article out of my notebook to show her I was telling the truth. She let me in. They had just a few pieces of pie left. I had Apple Walnut Raisin and Peach. Very good! I met the owner, Kim Bruck. She and three brothers moved there from Chicago, so Pie-Town had grown to population 65. She told me that Coconut Cream, Oatmeal Raisin, and Apple Crumb are her best sellers. I told her if it were not for the fact that I was almost out of gas, I would be in pie heaven. She gave me a free slice of pie and a little pie-shaped magnet as a gift for Bozzie. I enjoyed talking with her, but they wanted to close up and go home, and I wanted to see if I could find a land line to call AAA to put their service to a real test – delivering gas a million miles from nowhere. Kim and her brother told me there might be a gas station open 22 miles west – usually open until 6, but not sure about Easter Sunday. It was 5:45, so I said a quick goodbye and I drove very fast to Quemado where I could have kissed Robert, the attendant at J&Y Auto Service, when he was still open. If it hadn’t been for two ladies and a flat tire in a huge RV, he would have been long gone.
Life was good again. It is a shame that gasoline detracted from the visit to Pie-Town, but thank heaven the Pie-O-Neer was even open on Easter Sunday as well as J&Y Auto Service. I never thought I would be happy paying $1.00 more per gallon than I had ever paid before, but I was. Best gas by far. Ain’t supply and demand grand.